The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that the most significant question posed by the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn is why intelligence officials eavesdropped on his calls with the Russian ambassador and later leaked information on those calls to the press.
“I expect for the FBI to tell me what is going on, and they better have a good answer,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is conducting a review of Russian activities to influence the election. “The big problem I see here is that you have an American citizen who had his phone calls recorded.”
Flynn resigned Monday night, days after The Washington Post reported that intelligence officials had recorded Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. before Trump took office. Those recordings, The Post reported, appeared to contradict Flynn’s own claims that he had not discussed easing U.S. sanctions on Russia.
Although it remains unclear whether Flynn himself was being monitored for any reason, his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were intercepted because the Russians’ calls are routinely monitored.
The president also criticized the leaks in a tweet early Tuesday morning.
The real story here is why are there so many illegal leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on N.Korea etc?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2017
Separately Tuesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said he had no plans to further probe links between Flynn and Russia. “It’s taken care of itself at this point,” he said.
Facing reporters, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) brushed off questions about whether Congress needs to further investigate the Trump administration’s dealings with Russia, saying he was “not going to prejudge the circumstances” of Flynn’s calls. Ryan suggested he was most troubled that Flynn may have misled Vice President Pence about the substance of the calls.
“I think the president made the right decision,” he said. “You cannot have a national security adviser misleading the vice president.”
Nunes said he was dismayed that those recordings had leaked, citing a complex process for tapping communications involving U.S. citizens and then “unmasking” it for intelligence use.
The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), said late Monday that Flynn resignation “does not end questions over his contacts with the Russians.”
“These alleged contacts and any others the Trump campaign may have had with the Kremlin are the subject of the House Intelligence Committee’s ongoing investigation,” he said in a statement. “Moreover, the Trump Administration has yet to be forthcoming about who was aware of Flynn’s conversations with the Ambassador and whether he was acting on the instructions of the President or any other officials, or with their knowledge.”
Nunes said it was “very hard to believe” that Flynn was acting as “some sort of secret Russian agent.”
He also said he saw some hypocrisy in the response of Democrats to the Flynn recording.
“Where are all the privacy groups screaming now?” he asked.